Foreign ownership and the Japanese firm

Dr. George Olcott, University of Cambridge

11.Mar.2009 14.00 - 16.00
Room G.06 (basement in the Western Lecture Theatre), Leeds University Business School - Leeds


For most of the post-war period, it was not possible for foreign firms to make large-scale acquisitions in Japan. Not only did the Japanese "business system" itself stand in the way of the development of a market for corporate control (through extensive cross shareholdings, for example) but the heavily insiderist nature of Japanese firms created strong corporate cultures that presented potential difficulties for multinational firms wanting to integrate them into their global operations. During the last decade, however, the combination of economic weakness in Japan and the globalisation of the capital markets has created opportunities for foreign firms to acquire significant firms in Japan. In a case based approach (Renault-Nissan, Roche-Chugai Pharmaceutical, Ripplewood-Shinsei Bank and two anonymous UK firms which made Japanese acquisitions), this study examines the impact of foreign ownership and control on Japanese organisations. Using an institutional framework, it looks in particular at impact of foreign control on deeply embedded organisational practices, such as lifetime employment and seniority based pay, consensus-based decision-making which are features of Japanese firms.

Dr. Olcott is Senior Fellow at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge. He completed his Ph.D. dissertation in 2005 on the impact of foreign ownership and control on Japanese organizations.

After graduating from Oxford University with a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, he spent five years in Hong Kong and Japan working for Cathay Pacific Airways. After then spending two years at Shell International in London, he joined the UK merchant bank SG Warburg (now UBS Investment Bank). He spent fifteen years at Warburg, ten of which were in Tokyo, where he latterly headed up the Equity Capital Markets Group. He also spent three years as head of UBS's institutional asset management operation in Japan. He left UBS to embark on his current research at Cambridge in 2001. He was a Visiting Scholar at the Policy Research Institute of the Ministry of Finance, Japan in 2004 and is Vice Chairman of the Japan Society of the UK and Honorary Treasurer of the British Association of Japanese Studies. He is a member of the board of Nippon Sheet Glass, one of the world's leading flat glass manufacturers, which acquired Pilkington plc in 2006.

He also has an MBA from INSEAD in France.